January 25, 2023
TOKYO – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Monday to reverse the decline in the nation’s birth rate, saying measures to tackle the problem were the government’s most important policy issue.
In a policy speech at the Diet, Kishida also announced a phased transition of the medical system and related matters toward reclassifying the status of COVID-19 under the Infectious Diseases Law.
Kishida’s speech came during an ordinary Diet session convened on the day; the session will last for 150 days to June 21.
Noting that births in Japan are expected to fall below 800,000 in 2022, the prime minister expressed the view that the nation “is at a critical point with regard to whether it can maintain its social functions.”
To realize “policy measures to fight against the declining birth rate on an unprecedented scale,” Kishida said the government “will present outlines to double the budget in the future” by June, when the Cabinet sets the new Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management.
On COVID-19 measures, the prime minister said, “Debates will be conducted with the aim of lowering the classification [of COVID-19] to Category V this spring, in principle.” Kishida also explained that the government would coordinate to gradually review payment for COVID-19-related treatment, with an eye on having the public coffers meet such expenses.
Apropos the rising prices of goods, Kishida said the government would tackle the issue through such steps as early implementation of the second fiscal 2022 supplementary budget.
Addressing his pet policy of a “new form of capitalism,” the prime minister advocated reforms for the labor market in order to realize wage increases that exceed the rise in prices and vowed to promote “investments and reforms” for economic growth. He also opined that the public and private sectors must work together on efforts toward decarbonization and expressed an aim to develop and build next-generation nuclear reactors.
Touching on his policy to drastically strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities, Kishida said it represented “a sea change in Japan’s security policy,” explaining that the government would secure a five-year defense budget of ¥43 trillion and obtain counterattack capabilities. Regarding a portion of fiscal resources for the defense budget that cannot be secured through such measures as expenditure reforms, Kishida vowed that the government “would deal with the matter without postponement,” saying it “was a responsibility [to do so] for future generations.”
On the diplomatic front, Kishida expressed his determination that “Japan will lead the world [during its tenure as] president of the Group of Seven countries.” He also emphasized Japan’s intention to become more involved with the Global South — a group of emerging and developing countries mainly in the southern hemisphere — and to continue sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine.
As for Japan-South Korea ties, Kishida said he aims to foster “healthy relations and develop them further.”
As regards the issue of relations with China, he stated that Tokyo would urge Beijing over “that which requires urging” and would seek “responsible actions.”
Concerning constitutional revision, the prime minister expressed his hopes that the ruling and opposition parties would deepen discussions at the Diet, saying, “It is an issue that cannot be postponed.”